…It’s a great job and I love it. When I taught school I loved my job, too, though it nearly killed me, putting out all that joy and energy every day. (How do longtime teachers DO it? I would get home and topple like a felled oak onto the bed.)
Here’s a story: Yesterday, I was in a coffee shop where I sometimes write, when the young guy waiting on me said, “Wow, you really work hard. You’re here all the time.”
Then a little later he came over again. “Can I ask what you do for a living? Are you, like, a private investigator?”
“A private investigator?! No, I’m just a writer.”
“Oh,” he said, a look of extreme disinterest crossing his face. “A job more boring than mine,” was what he seemed to be thinking.
But as I say it’s not a boring job. It’s a great job.
Last Thursday, I sat for an hour in my car, nosed cozily up to a tiny city park. Everything was the color of a Crayola box, the sky just that shade of hurt-your-eyes blue and the grass that color of green you find in Easter baskets and everyone who passed looked fully alive.
Here came a woman with a cloud of hair the color of corn. Here stood a young man, practicing the controlled hypnotic movements of Chung Moo Doe. In the usual martial arts garb, he turned and pivoted, swooped a sword in the air, and moved his hands in graceful gestures. As people passed him, literally every single one slowed down to watch.
Now two dogs trotted by smiling. Now a squirrel the rare color of coffee ice cream executed arcing leaps across the grass, as unaware of its beauty as are all young creatures everywhere.
A baby passed, speaking of young, pushed in an old-fashioned pram with the top down, the whole gliding like a 1960s convertible.
Earlier that day, I had browsed in a wallpaper store and listened as two other customers fell to talking.
“The trouble here is, you can’t pick your wallpaper quickly ’cause then you have to live with it.”
“Like with marriage,” replied the other.
“Only thing I did right in my life,” said the first. “Wonderful guy! Married for 37 years and he dies of a heart attack.”
The clerk then picked up the phone to call his father, who, he told us, had just had bypass surgery.
“Have you gone for your walk yet, Dad? Oh. Well, it’s great that you’re looking at treadmills but you’ve got to do more than look at them.”
Now, back at the tiny park, two young woman sailed by on skates, chins high and backs arched. Now a van of nuns passed, veils flying.
Later, at the coffee shop of a nearby college the day’s warmth got the best of me and I put my head down on my folded arms, the way your teachers had you do in grade school.
Suddenly two campus police were beside me. “Ma’am. Are you all right, Ma’am?” one asked.
“Oh. I fell asleep,” I said, sitting up straight.
“You sure did,” said the second.“We figured it was all this homework,” he smiled, gesturing at the books and papers piled around me.
So I guess this job wears me out a little too, as you can see.
But it’s not the energy I put out that does it now. It’s the energy I witness in the people I see, all that lively human bustle. Writing for the paper is a great job, all right. And for sure it’s never ever boring.